Monday, July 31, 2023


Chapter 31 of Search For a Dancer, a memoir of a week spent in Iceland in November 2022

Three days after I had returned home I developed Covid. I quickly infected The Weaver.

It was a weird strain; we both got really sick and we both developed conjunctivitis. I went deaf. A few weeks later our first grandchild was born and he was sick, too (but not with Covid). Thankfully, by New Years Day we had all recovered.

Then I began to write this story.

I have been looking onto returning in 2023 but my interest seems to be waning. Flights are 50% more expensive, lodging is double, the Iceland Airwaves acts booked so far are, for the most part, uninspiring. Even the new theatre season lacks appeal. And I’ve read all of Halldór Laxness! The law of diminishing returns—forestalled by two decades of cultural discoveries—seems to finally have taken effect.

This party is over.

But… I will miss my days spent in Reykjavík ‘cool and crisp’; walking to the pool; chatting with the locals; lunches with old blog-pals; afternoons idly roaming the streets; the anticipation of the evening’s cultural offerings. And those nights!

Iceland has been a major part of a third of my life.

Is the memory of a dancer in a noisy cellar enough to sustain me? Will these random scenes be enough to last the rest of my lifetime?
Perlan with Hringbraut:
Jofriður Ákadóttir:
Ásthildur Ákadóttir:
Marta Ákadóttir:
Jóhanna Rakel:
Karólina Einarsdóttir:
Baejarins beztu:
Hekla Magnúsdóttir and Salka Valsdóttir:
The charms o' the min', the langer they shine,
The mair admiration they draw, man;
While peaches and cherries, and roses and lilies,
They fade and they wither awa, man…
~ Robert Burns

                                    THE END

By Professor Batty

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Friday, July 28, 2023

Happy Birthday

In honor of my 73rd birthday (today), here is some recycled FITK birthday content:

Woo-hoo! A party!

Kevin, Cathy, Me, Sister Jean, Frank, Kirby and Keith

I was turning seven, these might be the happiest pictures of me as a child in existence. We had quite a few of the neighborhood kids there, enough so that my mother bowed out of the preparations, letting my father cater the whole affair—cake and ice cream. Lots of ice cream.

Frank, Cathy, Kevin, Me, Kirby, Jeannie, Delroy, Arlen (standing)

If Arlen doesn’t look so happy, it may be due to the fact his family had never had ice cream (they might not have had a refrigerator, there were still ice-boxes in use then) and my dad let him eat as much as he wanted. Arlen ended up getting his stomach pumped.

That was the last birthday party I ever had.

Another Birthday Story:

Went for a drive.

In a mist.

100% humidity.


All the summer smells of decay and growth, in suspended animation during the recent dry spell, have emerged; co-mingled essences, heady stuff, cloying, bringing me back, back to a crazy bike ride, on my 30th birthday.

80 miles, almost straight north, leaving downtown at 10 p.m., picking up highway 65 in Northeast Minneapolis... a straight shot to Mora, Minnesota, and then five miles north of that to a log cabin on an old homestead. We had been renting it for the summer; the Weaver and me and baby makes three. I had been stuck in town all week working but this was Friday. A storm had preceded me- a big light show in the northern sky, but I wouldn't catch up to it.

Around Ham Lake the air became calm, a miasma from the swamps was seeping onto the road, like Dracula entering a window in an old horror movie.

It felt good.

In Cambridge I stopped at a road house, the drunken band was plodding its way through a Creedence medley, I drank a Coke and headed back out on the road. It was midnight. I was feeling a bit chafed, I had a long-tailed shirt on, so I thought I'd stow the shorts for a while. The old leather Brooks saddle had molded itself to my anatomy years ago but this was a closer type of intimacy.

About ten miles of this “commando cycling” dropped my core temperature enough so that it seemed prudent to regroup, as it were. Re-donning the shorts, I pedaled alone, not even a bar-closer drove by. I finally pulled into the cabin about 3 a.m., wiped myself down and crawled into bed. It was dead still, and silent, save for the gentle sounds of the sleeping Weaver and, in the crib, the baby.

Outside, the dew covered the grass and all was still.

One Hundred Gifts A Day

Went to a birthday party Saturday.

I guess it was partially for me, although I've pretty much given up on my personal birthday scene. It is fun to get a gift out of the blue though, and I get plenty of those. A smile, a hug, or just an unstated shift in body language that says: “It’s good to be here with you.”

Girls in their summer clothes.

The chirping of small children as they play.

The ferals, who tolerate me, watch me with interest, and don't hiss.

An e-mail from the other side of the world with an unexpected (and funny) joke.

A small job offer.

A neighborhood group meeting where someone opens up with me one-on-one.

A sense of well-being, if only for a minute or two.

A bike ride through the prairie grass with the fiery sun sinking in the west.

The skinny moon appearing after the sun goes down.

One hundred gifts a day, given with no thought of a return.


By Professor Batty

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Monday, July 24, 2023

The Trip Home

Chapter 30 of Search For a Dancer, a memoir of a week spent in Iceland in November 2022

When I got to the BSÍ terminal only a few people were waiting for the Flybus ride back to the airport. It was about 11:30 A.M.:
After waiting for about half an hour a bus pulled up and various vacationing vagabonds verily converged for the trip to Keflavík:
Goodbye lava, sea and Snæfellsness:
And then: there I was with luggage at the airport but minus my Speedo (which I had left drying on a rack in my apartment):
A saw my dopplegänger, who seemed to be pondering the mysteries of airport logistics:
I stopped for a bite:
After lunch I went to the gate area where exchanged travel stories with this white-bearded fellow traveler on his way back from Norway (or was it from The North Pole?) :
On the plane I chatted with with a woman (for the whole flight!) from North Dakota. She said that she had had and gotten over Covid. Later on, I would have doubts about her complete recovery.
And then I was home.

Search for a Dancer Index…

By Professor Batty

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Friday, July 21, 2023

Chili King Drive-in

Des Moines, Iowa

Story here.

By Professor Batty

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Monday, July 17, 2023

Last Call

Chapter 29 of Search For a Dancer, a memoir of a week spent in Iceland in November 2022

As I was leaving Gamla Bíó…

A young stoner offered me a hit from his vape device…

…As if! Fifty years too late.

There was a line for the Ukranian hip-hop band Go A at the Art Museum so I went into Airwaves Headquarters, where there was a stage set up in the old Kolaportið building. The Faroese rapper Marius DC was… well… rapping… in Faroese. A couple of degrees out of my comfort zone, he was energetic but not a lot of fun, and  no dancers. Perhaps it was just the Faroese but it seemed as if things were getting fragmented:
I went across the street to Hurrá, a small club, where I saw the guitar band BRIMHEIM, led by Faroese musician and songwriter Helena Heinesen, pounding out her three chord masterpieces. Hurrá has consistently had the best sound of any the venues but I hadn't seen any other acts in there this Airwaves. Helena aside, sometimes things just don’t work out:
They had gotten good reviews for their show the previous night at Iðno:

Hard rock, with good playing and attitude but I was starting to run out of steam so I headed back to my apartment, first dropping in to Fríkirkjan, the church on the pond.
Arny Margret, a capable singer-songwriter was holding court there. She mentioned that she had played her first public performance a year ago in this very place. She only had one song then, but tonight she played a full set with very tasteful accompaniment from a pianist and electric bassist. Definitely a cut above the usual singer-songwriter. I think she has some future potential and her performance was a definite high note to go out on:

My apartment was only 20 meters away from the church and although the music was still going on, my bed was beckoning.

Farewell, Airwaves 2022!

Search for a Dancer Index…

By Professor Batty

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Friday, July 14, 2023

My Back Pages - Progress

Back in 1973, I used to live in Minneapolis on North Fifth Street, just across the street from this house. Upstairs, a married couple would host card parties every Saturday night, while below them a pair of Mormon missionaries resided. It was a vibrant scene that now remains only in memories, as the house was eventually torn down to make way for a parking lot:
Over the years, the neighborhood had already undergone significant changes, transitioning from a primarily residential area to a mixed-use industrial zone with an abundance of parking lots. This transformation took place gradually, with houses being demolished one or two at a time over a span of thirty years. Interestingly, my own house was the last to be taken down, managing to stand for an additional eighteen years. Living under the constant threat of condemnation caused me to lose my sense of place in the world, which in retrospect, may have actually prepared me for some of the challenges of modern life.

This experience profoundly influenced my perspective on permanence and the ever-changing nature of our surroundings.

“But now… when that world is no more… the spirits rise up from the well of oblivion. People and pictures from a vanished world are reincarnated and assume a significance which was hidden at the time.” ~ Halldór Laxness, The Fish Can Sing

By Professor Batty

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Wednesday, July 12, 2023

My Back Pages - Iowana

Decker’s Iowana Ham and Bacon was popular in the early 20th century, its slogan was “The taste is so good!”, this sign was probably painted on this 1880s warehouse sometime in the 1920s. These warehouses were replaced by light rail and the Minnesota Twins’ Target Field ball park.

Decker’s was bought out by Armour in 1935, but its promotional items are still popular with collectors:
“But now… when that world is no more… the spirits rise up from the well of oblivion. People and pictures from a vanished world are reincarnated and assume a significance which was hidden at the time.” ~ Halldór Laxness, The Fish Can Sing

By Professor Batty

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Monday, July 10, 2023

Dinner Theatre

Chapter 28 of Search For a Dancer, a memoir of a week spent in Iceland in November 2022

Tonight’s play was the musical Sem Á Himni, originally a Swedish stage production and then a film. It is the story of a conductor who has a heart attack (on stage!) and then returns to his home town to recover. There he helps out with a struggling choir and in the process everyone grows, learns, and is fulfilled. It was written as a crowd-pleaser with character stereotypes aplenty. The drama is supplied by themes of spousal abuse and small-town politics presented in almost in a check-list fashion :

Overall I found it to be well sung, but with stilted staging, especially compared to the two previous plays I had seen. I had heard from a couple of people that the casting of the play was controversial in that one of the characters was a special needs man who was portrayed by a ‘norm’, with no other actors even considered. I could see both sides of the argument; the role was pivotal and needed an accomplished singer and actor to fill it, but they could have at least reached out for someone with that background. I imagine there was someone in the tight-knit Icelandic theatre community that should have been given a chance—otherwise there wouldn’t have been such a fuss.

Before the show, there was a man experiencing a coughing fit a few rows behind me. In the age of Covid that was unsettling and I hadn’t brought a mask. I thought about getting up, but then the man quieted down (or maybe he left.) My decision to stay would come back to haunt me later.

I had read in Silja’s review that the big production number (at the end of the first act) was so good that the rest of the play suffered in comparison. If that was the play’s high point (and it was impressive) I didn’t want to see any more. I left at the intermission.
At Gamla Bíó, Axel Flovent was emoing songs of despair and unfulfilled desire. After the sugary sweetness of Sem, the vinegar of Axel should have been a tonic, but I found his sturm und drang to be unbearable. Any more of that and my night was looking to be a washout. After a couple of songs I made my escape—perhaps my luck would change.

Search for a Dancer Index…

By Professor Batty

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Sunday, July 09, 2023

Boys in the Band

Rich Lewis Band, Grand Marais, Mn

By Professor Batty

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Saturday, July 08, 2023

Clouds Over Grand Marais

July 7, 2023

By Professor Batty

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Friday, July 07, 2023

Return to Gunflint Tavern

A bittersweet affair.

I had booked my current trip to Grand Marais last April in hopes of seeing my old friend’s band play at the ‘Ravens Nest’ above the Gunflint Tavern. It is a gem of a venue, open on three sides to the harbor and the town.

But Rich, my old friend, died last month. His band is still playing, but obviously he won’t be able to make it.

I did stop in earlier, however, if only to experience a feeling of what might have been. A ‘blues and boogie’ guitar duo was playing:

When the moon is in phase it can be seen from your seat as the band plays on a summer evening.

It’s absolutely magical:

By Professor Batty

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Wednesday, July 05, 2023

Return to Grand Marais

I’m off on a long weekend of fun and frolic in Grand Marais, Minnesota.

Posting may be spotty, but there will definitely be an installment of Search For A Dancer on Monday.

By Professor Batty

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Monday, July 03, 2023

The Dancer

Chapter 27 of Search For a Dancer, a memoir of a week spent in Iceland in November 2022
Fríða, Hrafnhildur, and Karòlína are Groá.

These are the three young women who stole my heart at the 2018 Iceland Airwaves. This neo-punk-feminist band with a DYI ethic took the Icelandic music scene by storm when they emerged from nowhere to make it into the finals of Músíktilraunir, an Icelandic music competition.
A cellar full of noise. The basement of Smekkleysa is not the most ideal venue, but it suited the group’s performance: up close and personal, with Groá’s in-your-face attitude and high spirits amplified by the hard concrete cube of a room. The group’s sound has evolved as they have grown over the last five years with hints of Captain Beefheart and even some funky drumming to enliven the Dada-esque proceedings.
When one of the audience members stripped to her underwear and began drumming and dancing with the band the energy level of the room ratcheted upwards as she shimmied and gyrated among the crowd. When she climbed upon a platform next to the stage the place went berserk as she showed off her embroidered bloomers with a logo stitched on them: ‘Granny Pants.’
I then realized that this wild “hype dancer” was Marta Ákadóttir, sister to Jofriður and Ásthildur. I had seen her in some videos a couple of years ago. Her exuberant performance touched me – actually! She rubbed up against me as she climbed up the stairway where I was standing and shook her posterior at the crowd below. It’s been a while since I have had that sort of contact with a twenty-something woman. A true multimedia experience - I could even smell her! To raise the insanity level even further, when Marta returned to the floor she whipped out a recorder and began noodling along.
The set ended and, since I was the defacto doorman, I held the door open so as to allow the overheated crowd to decompress. The band members seized to opportunity to cool off and zoomed by me for some fresh air. I joined them a few minutes later and thanked them profusely for their great show. I mentioned to Marta that I had seen her videos (see link previous) and she was mortified/thrilled. “I thought no one had seen those! I did them for a class,” she said, with a big smile. I smiled in return, then it was smiles all around, we were all still on a performance high. I walked away blowing them kisses.

The love flowing between these women was palpable. This was not a show-biz ‘act’, it was a flowering of unfettered female spirit and a celebration of life.

I had found my dancer.
Image: Gabriel Backman Waltersson via Flaunt

Search for a Dancer Index…

By Professor Batty

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